View from the Porch

View from the Porch

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Plug and play home design

The main reason that modular/manufactured housing is so affordable is that while you may believe there are lots and lots of different floor plan designs, they're really the same pieces parts, arranged in many different configurations.

What makes this ...

... look so pricey, is the cedar siding.  In reality the manufacturer has taken two sliding glass doors, set them at an angle, with a post in the middle and then used the upper window treatment from their standard cathedral ceiling design, and voila, a mini-Awanee view out into the vineyards.

No matter what cathedral-ceilinged floor plan I choose, I can have the "prow-ended" window treatment design, for only the extra cost of two sliding glass doors.  Pretty nifty, huh?

So, I'm not stuck with this floor plan:

With a little luck, and hoping that the prow-endedness will permit a wider home, I can plug in this floor plan:

(The prow-ended plan is backwards and upside down, if you place the street at the top of the floor plan, like the edited version).

Got a call from the park today, and Sterling has already begun preparing the old mobile home to be removed, which will happen Monday, the lift has been sold and relocated to the new owner, and the Sterling site planner has been booked to stake out the house on Tuesday.

All really good news, and things are moving forward.

However, even if everything runs like clockwork and there are no hitches, final completion and move in won't happen until mid November.   On the positive side, I'll have more time to de-clutter, cull and organize, as well as attend a fiber retreat up in Tahoe (booked and paid for in February).  On the  negative side that's a couple of extra weeks of double rent. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The business, and pleasures, of moving to Sonoma

First to business ....

Took the latest two floor plans up to the park today to see if they were acceptable.  Dick actually liked them both.  He's concerned about the length, but again, we won't know until the lot is cleared and we can stake out the measurements.  That's also when the state inspector comes in to see if the size of the home complies with state regulations for mobile home parks and Dick determines if the living space covers no more than 75% of the lot. Living space is not only the dwelling, but the awnings, eaves, any shed and the car port.

When I'm talking about both floor plans, I'm talking about the 24 x 50 that we know will fit and the mini-Awahnee that I don't know if I can afford.    Dick actually said that he thought the 24 x 50 plan might even be repositioned facing to the SW,  the way I want it.  Things not so dire.

Letters sent to the home builder to authorize removal of the old house (builder is going to give me $1,500 credit towards home purchase) to remove the old place.  He'll turn around and sell it to a refurbisher, who will sell it to someone for about $9,000, once he's fixed it up nicely.  I don't mind.  As long as I don't have to pay to remove it, I'm good.

The individual I bought the home from was disabled and had a lift that would get her into the home from outside.


The park manager had asked me, a couple of weeks ago if I was interested in selling it; there is a park resident that needs one and the park's maintenance staff would take care of removing it to the new location.  New, the lifts run about $2,500, and this one is only about a year old.  I suggested selling it to the park resident for $2,000, and they countered with $1,500.  I said I would sell it on Craigslist because I had intended to use these funds to pay the park maintenance guys to clear the lot of all the shrubbery, and to remove the front concrete car port.

The resident offered an additional $250, which I accepted, and the quote to do all the above mentioned work came in at (I know you'll be shocked and surprised) $1,750.  Easy come, easy go.  But when two contractors are telling me that it will cost $30K to prep the lot, and remove the old home,  anything I can do to lower/mitigate that number, I'll do.  So far, I've got the old home off the lot,  the overgrown shrubbery, and unwanted carport gone, and I'm still in the black.  I'm sure there's some foundation work the builder needs to do that will cost, but at least the messy parts are taken care of and I haven't spent a dime.  It's all good.
SW view side

So, the guys are going to start clearing the shrubs next week, at least from the front of the property so it will be easy for the contractor to remove the dwelling.

 Hopefully all that will be done next week, and if I'm really lucky, by Friday we can get a preliminary, and much more accurate, idea of what can fit on the site.

Now to the pleasures of Sonoma ...

Two books that I thoroughly enjoyed  in recent years were Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and Michael Pollan's, The Omnivore's Dilemma; wherein the delights of being a locovore and the joys of seasonal eating were told in an entertaining and educational way.  In Kingsolver's book, she has us panting with anticipation for spring's first strawberries and asparagus.  It's September 27 today, and across the main thoroughfares of Watmaugh Road and Arnold Drive from the park is a wonderful farm stand that sells daily fresh-picked the fall.  And they are sweet and ripe, and grown organically.  Besides the one basket of berries (pet peeve:  most large grocery stores have stopped selling the small baskets of strawberries, in preference for the larger "family-sized containers) I also got 2 lbs of small sized sweet potatoes.  Bill:  $4.50

About 3-4 miles away is Green String Farm, where their farm store is such an amazing testament to the joys of being a locovore/seasonal eater.  Here's what I picked up today, for $17.  A quarter pound of local cheese, and a quarter pound of local butter, 2 pounds of stone-ground (I ground it myself) wheat flour (the bread dough is rising as we speak), a couple of fuji apples, an heirloom tomato, a couple of bulbs of garlic, four pickling cucumbers to make some bread and butter refrigerator pickles and two gianormous carrots.

In the farm store they have, not only all the seasonal veggies, herbs and fruits that abound, but plants, seeds, grass fed beef, press your own olive oil, and other bottled olive oils.  Nary a bottle of wine in sight.

And then exactly two blocks from my house is an egg farm (I didn't see the chickens, but I wasn't looking that hard), where I picked up a dozen jumbo eggs for $4.25.  So, for a little over $25, I got real food, that I know where it came from.  Cost-wise, it's probably more than Safeway and probably a bit less than Whole Paycheck Foods.

Take that, Monsanto!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Somebody moved my cheese

I got the park's plan for siting my home Monday morning, scanned it, sent it off to Sterling, and then stewed about it all day.

This is how the park wants me to site my home, believing that is in keeping with other homes in the park.  But the really pretty view at the top of this page is facing SW. That big, black square on the right is the utility pedestal (water, gas, electrical to the house).  It will cost me an extra  $4,000 to move that puppy, which I don't want to do, if I don't have to.   I'm pretty sure the park would prefer I not move it either  (every time I bring it up, they try and dissuade me).  While this map is not to scale, it's close enough except for a fairly important item; the trees.  See those teeeny, tiny little green circles at the street end of the drawing?  That's the park's idea of showing the placement of the scotch pine trees.  Take a look at the "Before" picture on the to the right.  From tree to tree it's 20 feed wide, and 6 feet deep.  That's what they really look like.  The park is willing to pay for pruning the trees;  thinning them, and removing the lower branches.

So, with this kind of placement, the big windows will be looking out at vineyards through tree trunks, to the SE and will also partially be looking into my neighbor's yard.  Yes, there will be some taller windows on the SW side of the house, and that will probably have to suffice.  Also not crazy about having the utility pedestal look like some bizarre garden ornament in the area of whatever small patio/deck that eventually goes in the front yard.  Last but not least, my neighbors have a patio which is  right up against the the property line in the front and this placement affords neither of us the appearance of privacy.

What I would really like, and I know it's kinda hard to picture, but the end of the house that's currently facing NE would be facing SE.  Yes, I'd have to move the utilities to the back, but it would be worth it to me.

So, when I sent this drawing along to David in Manteca, I said that I would head up to the park on Tuesday, and try and talk them into letting me (a) move the utilities (b) cut down the east tree and (c) flip the house site.    I wasn't holding out much hope, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.  I have resigned myself to the site plan above, but one more shot at trying to get what I want, and if not successful, I'll throw in the towel.    I really need to this all nailed down so I can move.

As luck would have it the park folks weren't available Tuesday morning, and I was lunching with Rick in the afternoon, so I planned to head up there Wednesday.

Couldn't up about 4:30 and started trolling the net.  Skyline Homes has a great website, and as you can see, it's divided up by regions; basically where the factories are.  I'd only been looking a floor plans for our region; I'd looked at the other regions for interior ideas, but hadn't thought about being able use another floor plan.  At the time I first looked, nothing struck me.

Not so this morning:

It's the right length, and while it's wider than 24', I'm pretty sure it could be modified.  And to be honest, there aren't a whole lot of mods I'd be doing to this floor plan (except for a thing with the kitchen, but more on that later).  And it would fit on the site aspect the park wants, wouldn't have to cut down any trees or move the utilities and the back of my house would be facing my neighbor.  Oh, and the pointy end, the end that will be facing the view that I want of the vineyards ...

I dashed off an email to David, asking if we could price out this floor plan, and if it was possible to be built in Woodland.  I did that at 6am, and they don't open until 10, and I hoped I would hear by 10:30.  David didn't email me back, he called.  He sounded as excited as I was.    This place is perfect!

I'm trying really hard not to get my hopes up.  Maybe I can't afford it; I haven't got it priced out yet.   But this is one of Skyline's homes from the upper mid west; Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, etc.  Can it be more expensive than a home in California?

So, now I wait, on pins and needles (honestly, I'm not checking my email every 5 minutes).  If this home is in the same ballpark as the other, I'm good.  So, once more I hop onto the E-ticket Emotional roller coaster.

... to be continued.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Who left the cake out in the rain?

Building a house is like baking a wedding cake.  In your minds eye, you have a picture of how you want that beautiful, special cake to look,  and how it is to be displayed.  Then the practical realities creep in; how big is the table it's going to be displayed on, what else has to be displayed with the cake, how it is going to look and taste. Next you gather all your ingredients and tools, and you bake (build) the basic cake, cover it with frosting and fondant, add the flowers and flourishes, and voila, a joy to behold.

Pretty much all the previous posts have been stressing over whining about  discussing the shape of the table the cake is going to be displayed on.  That's one the constant, and not all the pans (house floor plans) will make a cake that would fit on that table.

So, now that found the right pan, it's time to gather the basic ingredients to make my cake.  And while my tastes run to pure organic Madagascar vanilla, my budget puts me in the "what's the best (and least expensive) substitute" column.

I've never had a home wherein I could add/paint/design the things I wanted.   It was either a rental, or we moved into a previously owned home in which all the core elements (paint, light fixtures, appliances, flooring, window treatments, etc.) had been decided by somebody else.  Those things, of course, can be changed but for us, buying a new house, and moving in pretty much took most of our funds, and the changes we made took time.

Not so with this one.  And that's the really fun part.  This is where I go back to, when I'm frustrated with other aspects of this process.  And I am grateful to my friends letting me talk about this, and providing honest feedback.

All my ramblings so far, have been about the table and the cake pan.  Now it's time to talk about the flour, eggs, milk and butter;  the innards of the cake.

Energy efficiency:   Todays manufactured homes are built with energy efficiency in mind.   Included in the price are dual-paned windows,  formaldehyde-free insulation, energy star appliances and energy efficient air-duct systems.  On top of those basic items, Skyline offers an upgraded energy package for an extra $2,000.  In the winter, my 1950s-built duplex, with single-paned windows, and 1950s insulation, costs me about $250 a month; in the summer, I'm paying about $70/month (which is running my old appliances, electronics and I rarely, if ever, turn on the heater).  So I figure that in slightly under three years, the extra expense will pay for itself, and cut down my monthly bills.  That's a great upgrade.  Maybe, one day, I could put solar panels on the roof, but that's another discussion that's a couple of years down the road.

Ceilings and Windows:

With the previous plan I liked, I was going to pay extra for the raised ceilings, but with the plan I'm now getting, not only are the side walls up 8 feet, there are cathedral ceilings throughout, and the living room windows will look like this:

The window(s?) in the dining room will look like this, at least one on the view side.   I haven't made up my mind yet on whether I want the other wall to be all built in cabinets, or a smaller window with built-ins on either side.

Front Entrance:

I'd really like a front porch, but not sure it can happen.  This front entrance is on Skyline's smallest model.  Eventually, I'd like the front yard to have a patio of some sort, and this type of an entrance/steps/door would fit right in.  But this may be one of the really expensive ingredients I can't afford.

My second choice is a beveled glass insert door.  Skyline makes one comparable to this (without the fancy side windows).  It's nice.

So, for the time being, these are the structural parts of the house I'm hoping for.  The front entrance is still in the works; the other two are locked in.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Third time might really be a charm ....

Just got off the phone with David.  He's really a good salesman.  When I shared the good news about the change in dimensions, he calmly said that we had looked at a floor plan in Manteca that was 24 x 52 and while I indicated I liked it, I liked the other one better.

Oh yeah, now I remember.  I wasn't crazy about the rounded breakfast bar, but...everything else was great.  This floor plan used to be their go-to plan, before the 27' wide models became acceptable in parks.

Hopefully, dear readers, this will be the 2nd to the last time I show you a floor plan.  I expect that once I get the site plan from Dick, and forward it to David, there will be some mods, but I like this.

The laundry/utility room is good-sized, plenty of storage.  Nothing needs to be done to the Master Bath, except replace the tub with a shower.  There are good sized closets in the other two bedrooms.  We'll also mirror flip the floor plan, like with the other one.

I am now, officially, cautiously optimistic.  Gotta tell ya ... this has been an e-ticket emotional roller coaster.

Third time's a charm?

Traveled up toe Woodland on Wednesday to see the homes on the Skyline lot.  There were three and only one that was 44' in length, 27' wide.  I so wanted to like it, but I didn't.   Here's the floor plan.    There is really no storage, and (see previous post about stuff) while I'm going to be getting rid of a lot of the aforementioned stuff,  there's just no room.  See that tiny little room, next to the guest bath ... that's REALLY tiny, and the master bedroom, at it's biggest is 9' long where the bed will go, and not much else.

Windows and light are important to me (wonder if I suffer from a mild case of SADD?).  Where I live now is under a huge oak tree,  the living room and kitchen windows face west, so that for other than very brief time in the late afternoon, the living area is dark, and I need to have the light on most of the day.  I prefer to work with natural light.  I loved the openness of living in an Eichler for 25 years.

Also, the exterior is kinda boring.

However, the visit was not a total waste.  Elizabeth, who showed me around, had some great ideas, and I found that I do like the solar tubes for extra light and high, small clearstory windows for master bath and master bed room.  Also, and a couple of others have suggest this as well;  while I may not  need this now,  I should consider adding the accessibility package (grab bars in master bath, shower and a taller commode) while the home is being built.  Cheaper to do it now, much better integrated when being built than added as an after thought, and a plus for re-sale, especially if the home is in a 55+ park.

So, I drove home, with some good smaller ideas, but pretty downhearted overall.  Honest to God, I didn't think this would really be as hard as it's becoming.  

After arguing with myself for a couple of hours driving I stopped off in Napa for a hair cut and a great visit with Carole.  I got home at 5, and got a call from Char, wondering if dinner at San Rafael Joes would work.  Would it ever!  What good friends.  Both Carole and Char, after listening to me whine explain the issues I was having, said the same thing.  "If you aren't going to be happy, don't go through with it."   Which is pretty much how I ended the argument with myself.  Char also suggested getting a laser measuring tape, that might help me more accurately measure the space.

Next morning, wrote to Sterling, saying to hold off on removing the old house, that I really needed a better way to determine what size home I could get on the site.  If I didn't like it, I would sell the place (tough choice, but heck, there were others interested, I could most likely sell it for more than I paid, at least enough to cover the extra costs, and real estate commission).  So, maybe I wouldn't be able to move right away, but no sense in trying to make a square peg fit in a round hole.

But, there's this view...

Got the laser tape, drove up to the site, and, um, laser tapes work great inside; not so much outside.  Well at least I didn't buy the really expensive one.   But did have my old fashioned tape with me, and decidced  to spend about an hour measuring the perimeter.  Found out a bunch of stuff about the site;  there's a manhole cover under one of the rhodis, and with that, the two huge scotch pines and the fire hydrant/light pole easment, a fair bit of my site is being used by the park, and yet the space rental is right up there with the rest of 'em.   If I stay, seems like grounds for a discussion with park management for a reduction in rent.

Driving home, I called Dick (outside park manager, who deals with all the issues around the grounds), and told him I hadn't heard back from the folks who were going to pick up the old house (I had wanted to donate it to our homeless center, but while they were initially excited, I think the costs/logistics of moving a mobile home were overwhelming).  Dick agreed with me that if I wasn't happy I should sell, yes it was a small site, no, he didn't know what the manhole cover was, but was looking into it, and no the owners really didn't want to cut the trees down ... they would trim them back and up, but not down. At the very end of the conversation, Dick says he had plotted out a placement for a 50-52' long house on the site but that 27' was just too much, it would have to be 24' wide.  HUH???  I said...but you told me 44' long.  He said that was only if you wanted the 27' wide.  (ok, he might have said it, but not to me, or I didn't hear it...but...honestly, I would have remembered that).

I asked him to copy and mail his plot plan.

The current house on the site is 24' wide, and feels small, but then that might be because of the low ceilings (and it was always one of the extras I wanted ... higher ceilings).

I measured the width of my duplex when I got home (with my new, handy dandy laser) which I find roomy, and it's 23' wide.  So, maybe this beaten horse isn't dead yet.

I'll know more after I get the plot plan, send it to Sterling, to see what we can come up with.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Deja vue, all over again

Apparently, when the folks at the park told me a 52' long home would fit in my space, they really meant 44' long.

Met Chris, the Skyline contractor at, the site Monday, with the outside park management, and ... it was like I hadn't been there with another contractor, last Wednesday.

I really was paying attention.  We measured it.

But now...I've got to start from scratch, again, with more, different and smaller floor plans.

Dave, at Sterling homes has been great.  He sent me about six more floor plans to review.  I'm probably just cranky, but none of them strike me.  It's not that I want to live in a mansion ... I just don't want to feel like I'm living in a dressed up trailer.

Wednesday afternoon:  Just got off the phone with Dave, and he says there's a model at their factory that might suit, and he understands that I'd probably want to see what a smaller unit looks like.

Also both he and Chris said that its fairly difficult to tell, with the current house on there and it would be best for them, to measure with out it on the site. to Woodland I go, and I gotta get rid of the old tin can.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Retiring ... it's not for sissies

My mom used to say "growing old ain't for sissies".  I feel that way about retirement.

First off, there's the money thing.

Aside from babysitting, I starting working, for a paycheck, when I was eighteen, and I've worked almost steadily since then  (5-months maternity leave taken in 1979,  1 year's educational leave in 1981, and 11 months without work when the bottom fell out of real estate in 2008).

I remember when I got my first paycheck, expecting $XX, only to find out that about a quarter of that money had gone to something called FICA, and other taxes.  I knew that I'd get the taxes back, because I wasn't earning that much, but my dad tried to explain to me that I would get the FICA back, when I was 65.  He called it "Social Security", and as both he and mom were staunch members of the GOP (at least the responsible, reasonable GOP of the 50s and 60s), their explanation was a little confused; something to do with a the New Deal and FDR.  Ok, I got it, I was earning money which I'd never, ever see and giving it to the government to give to old people.

Well, guess what  ::snicker::?  I got mine this year.

The first jobs I had that I really loved were in the airline business.  Back in the late 60s, when you went to work for them, there were things called "closed shops" -- if you wanted to work for that company, you had to join the union they had a contract with.  I had to join the Teamsters when I went to work for Pan Am (sob, I miss them) in Seattle, and when I moved back home in '72, and went to work for Qantas, I had to join the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace workers (IAMAW).  Now given the aforementioned political climate in our household, the labor movement was not afforded any respect in my growing up years; and I thought all union members were thugs and goons.

No entity is perfect; no corporation, no goverment, no union.  That being said, the stated goals and efforts of most of the people in the Labor Movement are to ensure a better life for their members, which includes dignity in their retirement.  They collectively bargain with management so that their members have decent wages, hours and working conditions.  I learned a lot those early years at Qantas, such that when I left, I stayed working in the Labor Movement, for Service Employees International Union (SEIU).  The pensions that I earned from those Union jobs will also help me live in my retirement, and not be a burden to my family.  Nothing fancy, mind you, but I won't be a bag lady either.  And you have no idea what a relief that is.

Then there is the "what do I do with myself NOW?" thing.

That's the fun part.  All the things I wanted to do, and couldn't because of work, or family obligations, I can try now, as long as I can afford them.  I can take classes; learn to be a master gardener, finally finish up those few credits to get my degree, learn to speak Spanish (or mandarin), and (at the risk of conjuring up stereotypical retirement images) spend time knitting and working with fiber.

I don't think of retirement as "not working", I think of it as working at things you love and want to do, and not worrying about a paycheck.

Unless, of course, that aforementioned GOP of today get's their way, and they privatize social security and voucherize medicare -- then I'll be a bag lady for sure!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

To have and to hold on to

I don't move that often. At least not as a grown up.

I lived with my parents in our first house for the first sixteen years of my life, the we moved to a bigger, better place.  Two years later there was college,  and my mom mostly kept my stuff  (what little there was of it), in the garage.  For the next 10 years I moved a bunch, but then everything I owned fit into my Ford Pinto (no laughing).   When my ex and I moved in together before we married, we started acquiring grown-up stuff.  Our first house was small, and we lived there for 4 years, acquiring more stuff, as well as a lovely, gorgeous baby girl.  So, after four years, we moved to a bigger place, a block away, where we lived for the next 20 years, acquiring a whole lot more stuff.  The move from that house was the worst; marriage ending, selling house to run away from home,  getting rid of a lot of stuff without thinking about it, just to be gone.  After 14 months of living on the Peninsula, I had to come home; nine years in the next apartment, and then two years in my current duplex.  All the time, even while getting rid of some stuff, acquiring more, different stuff that fit into the new places better than the old stuff.  And yet, I still have boxes, unpacked from the previous move, that I was going to get to, one of these days; but you know how that goes, there's just never the time to do that ugly stuff

So now, I'm moving into a bigger, but much nicer place.  I want it to be perfect.  I want to walk in the front door to the fabulous Sunset Magazine house of my dreams.  The only problem with that scenario is my stuff.

Books:  I love books and I hate to throw them out.  Well I never throw them out, I donate or give them away.  But a full bookcase, to me, isn't so much a part of the home's ambiance, as it is the essential decor of my mind. The new place has three bedrooms, and one of them I wanted to be the office/den.  Lots of book cases, nice desk, one comfy chair.  I was hoping to buy one of those Bookcase/Wallbeds, but, alas, with the downsizing of the length of the house,  most of that coming from the "den", no room.  So, maybe, instead, I'll go to IKEA, buy enough assemble-yourself (ugh) bookcases to line one wall, and go from there.

Yarn/fiber:  For those of you, dear readers,  that are not fiberistas, you may either choose ignore this paragraph, or read, but it may confuse.  Those that are, however, will completely understand.  The third bedroom is to be my craft room.  My old bookcases and wire cubes will be employed along one wall to display my stash (not the plant kind, but the yarn and unspun fiber kind) and craft books,  all my knitting and spinning tools will be stored neatly in the closet and I will purchase this hidden desk beds to act as work table, as well as a spare bedroom.  I will use the hutch on the desk to store sewing machine and other fabric items, and the room will be a refuge of crafting and inspiration.  Ok, that's the plan, but I really REALLY have to downsize my yarn/fiber/craft book stash, and that's so very hard to do.  My friend Linda helped me two years ago, but unbeknownst to me, the stash grew and multiplied.

Furniture:  I've got some ok stuff in that department, however, the one thing I've had for 35 years, whose time has come to leave me, is my dining room set (6 chairs, 1 table with leaf that seats 8, buffet and hutch (which store my good dinner service).  It's solid oak, but dated, in a clean-cut-oak-70s style.  It's just too big for the new dining space.  For the one or two times a year I need to seat 8-12, well, we'll just have to figure something else out.  I need to get a new (or previously-owned) dining set that fits.  I won't need a buffet and breakfront, as those are being built-in to the new place.  I have my mom's old sofa which matches the two antique chairs.  but it's really not comfortable.  I'd love to be able to sell it, and get a nice love seat/sofa/sleeper for the living room. The only coffee table I have is actually Sarah's, so I need to find one for me.  Bedroom is fine, no changes there.

Kitchen: The worst room in the house to pack up, and sort through.  Fiddle-de-dee, I'll worry about that tomorrow.

One of the benefits of living alone, is that you can do things on your own timeline, and you don't have to compromise on getting rid of things.  One of the drawbacks of living alone is there is nobody to nag you to get going, and force you to throw crap out.

I've got a six week time frame, I should be ok, if I can do a little bit every day.   I'm thinking about getting one of those Pods or PakRat moving/storage containers.  Maybe, if it's parked in the driveway, I will be motivated to fill it up everyday, with something.  Also, the Home Consignment store in Corte Madera is a great place to recycle your stuff, and find somebody else s stuff that they don't want that might fit.  Also, our knitting group has been loosely discussing a yard sale; maybe I'll be organized enough by mid October to (a) host it because I've got a ton of room (b) have enough stuff to sell.

Mr. Thoreau, I'll try and quote you every day I go through this:  "Our life is frittered away by detail (and I'll add for my own benefit "stuff").  Simplify!  Simplify!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Good news, I can get what I want.

I had planned to go to Sterling Homes in Manteca (a 200 mile round trip from San Rafael) to put in an order for the home, but I was so bummed learning that what I wanted to build couldn't be built on the site, I thought I should rethink the entire house, maybe drive up to Woodland (both Silvercrest and Skyline factories are in Woodland), and see what was on their lots that would fit on my lot.  So, I dithered for a while Thursday morning, and finally realized that I really did want a Skyline home, and that all the models were on the Sterling's Manteca lot.   So got into the car and headed off.

As an aside:  (a) VERY glad I have a Prius and (b) I know there are folks that commute daily from Stockton, Tracey and Livermore to San Francisco and Oakland, and I dunno how they do it.  That is the suckiest commute EVER!

David, the gentleman I spoke with previously was great.  I told him there were two issues with the home I had been planning to put on the lot.  (1)  it was too big, I could only put a 52' long home there, and that the floor plan I liked would only fit on the lot with the front facing the cul-de-sac, or the dining room looking into the neighbor's yard.    He tells me, "No problem, we'll just flip the house (mirror image) and knock 4' out of it.  Huh?  Wow!    It was that easy.  So my two basic assumptions were totally erroneous (1) not cheaper, as there is a modification fee and (2) I could actually have the floor plan I wanted!

I spent four hours there, picking out all the details, reviewing a preliminary plan, picking colors, and generally making sure that (as lovely as the folks are) I don't have to make that drive to Manteca again.

So, here's my real floor plan.

So, next step, meet with the Skyline Contractor on the site.  Once the order is received by the factory, it takes about 15 days to build, and about 3 days to get up and on the site.

The house, itself, is pretty much finalized.  There will be nit-picky details, but on the whole, details are selected, price quoted.

So, for the most part, the fun stuff is done.  Now I have to coordinate the removal of the house, get the lot prepped, pack (UGH!! I hate this part), figure out how to move to someplace that might not be ready when I am, de-clutter and downsize.  Oh yeah, and pay for all of this.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Waitress, can I have my reality check please?

Back to the drawing board.

Met with the contractor and the park management at the site Tuesday.  It's an odd-shaped lot, which is both part of it's charm, and the reason I can't put any of the homes I've been looking at on it.

I was told the current home was 48' long, so I'd been looking at floor plans that were 56' long ... I mean, after all what's 8 feet? 

Well, the house that's there is actually 40' long, and the only length that will fit on the site, without totally obscuring my neighbor's view, as well as overwhelming the site, is 52' long.

On the one hand, the good news is that whatever I choose, it'll be cheaper.

More after I get back from Manteca.

Too Many Choices

On Monday, I drove up to Santa Rosa to drop off the check to buy the house in Sonoma.    I had some time to kill before I met Sarah to show her where I was going to be living, so I thought I'd stop by yet another manufactured home retailer, Clayton Homes on Santa Rosa Avenue.  They had actually been one of my first stops a couple of months ago, but I thought their homes were pricey, and there was no sales person to show me around so I moved on.

Clayton homes has a lovely sales office, and many lot models.   When I explained some of my confusions, frustrations and dilemmas to Robin, the sales manager, she got it.  We looked at a couple of homes on the lot.  And then she mentioned that the lot models were (a) for sale and (b) discounted because they were already on the lot.  They were as configured, no customizing, but the price was right.

Then she showed me their number 1 seller, the Fireside.  Open the front door and you walk into this:

You can even buy the furniture that they had staged the home with.  Now yes, I wanted the stainless upgrade package, but heck ... black isn't to shabby, and while the cabinets aren't the light, alder wood that is my favorite, they're pretty spiffy.

And while I was partial to the floor plan where the bedrooms are one end of the home and the kitchen/living/dining on the other,  this plan does have the raised ceilings.  And this master bath also had the shower that I wanted, but the tub I did not.

Did I mention that from the time you pay Clayton for the home, and the site is prepped, it will only take them two weeks to put it on the site?  BIG seller for me.  That means I can be in by the end of October.

Then Robin said that these homes had been flying off the lot, and for a totally refundable $1,000, I could reserve the home and get their contractor to go out to the site to see how it would be placed, and talk to the park management about the process.

Ok, it's not EXACTLY what I wanted, but it's there.  If I can manage all the moving parts, maybe I can be in moved by the middle of October.  I can always add the touches I want later, and the price is less than what I'd been looking at.  And it's there.

Out came the check book.  Meeting the contractor on Tuesday.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Today's Manufactured Home ... no trailer trash here!

Years ago, Sarah and I, driving back from my nephew's university graduation in Portland stopped by the Palm Harbor Home manufacturing site in Salem, OR and took a tour of the plant.  Up until then I had no idea what modular/manufactured homes were, and how they had improved over the years.  The following May I went to Sunset Magazine's open house and saw prototype for architect Michelle Kaufman's Breeze House on display, and it blew my mind.

So I've been thinking about a modular/manufactured home for a long time.

Even if I had a piece of land somewhere, I still think I want to put a manufactured home on it (unless I win the lottery, but then all bets are off).  Today's manufactured homes are amazingly energy efficient and they use many green building methods.  They're not the tin-can mobile home of, even 10 years ago.  And while I'm pretty sure that there will be many improvements made in the process over the next 20 years, these homes should hold their value a lot more than a mobile home.

When I began this search for my retirement lodging, I knew there were manufacturers out there, and I thought that most of those homes you see on lots in rural areas were the manufacturers.  Not so.

There are basically four manufacturers that sell in our region, or have plants here.  Champion HomesSkyline Homes, Silvercrest Homes and Clayton Homes.  The reason you want to buy from a manufacturer that has a plant close to your site, is that it's cheaper to haul the factory-finished home to your site, the closer it is to that site.

The manufactured home models you see by the side of the road, if not attached to the plant, are retail sellers, usually contractors, represent the home manufacturer, and help you get the home from factory to site.

It took me about a month to figure this out.  The manufacturer's don't help because they each have many models with different names, and retailers are (and probably rightly so) wary of lookie-loos who don't know much but ask a lot of questions.

I visited a retailer's lot in Ukiah (on one of my trips back from Lakeport) and got some brochures, some basic questions answered, and started my internet research.  I was still kind of confused.  I needed to know what basic things were included in the home, what upgrades were important to have, or could be done later.  Also, after talking to a several retailers, I was getting conflicting information about what it would cost to prep the lot, with $30,000 being about average.  Also, it was like pulling teeth to get comparable answers online and with the retailers, as to how to compare products ... I'm pretty sure that's deliberate, but it sure doesn't help with costing out a project.

Just by sheer luck, on our trip to Yosemite, Sarah and I stopped for coffee in Manteca, and lo and behold there was a Modular Home Retailer, across the highway from Starbucks.  I made a quick detour over to Sterling Homes and looked a couple of the homes, spoke with a nice salesman, and said I would be back.  David spent about an hour with me on my return trip home, and was great, and gave me the most information I had received. The picture at the top of the page is the home I decided to buy, and the floor plan the one I decided I liked best.

I'm planning a trip down to Manteca later this this week to finalize the home purchase.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Movin' on out

I'm moving.   Out of Marin.  Where I've lived all but 7 years of my life.   And building my very first modular home (well, not by myself, but...).

I'm kinda scared and excited at the same time.  This blog is going to chronicle the journey.

I officially retired from my last job 5/4/2012.  I've qualified for my pension  and social security.  But I've been a renter for the last 13 years, and being on a fixed income, with very expensive rents in Marin, I figured it was time to move on.  I want to be able to live within my means.

There are several 55+ communities around, but, they too, are pricey, and to be honest, I don't like the idea of a condo.  They're great when everything is new, but when things start getting old, falling apart and all the units aren't fully occupied, the price tag for repairs can get high.  And no way could I afford a single family home, anywhere in, or near, Marin.

So my alternative seemed to be a mobile home park.  Some are good, some not.  Almost had a place, in a Marin park, but a deceitful realtor put an end to that.

I didn't want to go further east than Sonoma or north of Petaluma.  When I began looking at parks, I had no idea how many there are out there.  There are four in Marin, 2 of which are for residents over the age of 55.  Both in Novato, and both owned by city.  The other two are all-age parks; the one in Larkspur is a hot mess, and the one on Terra Linda has  been embroiled in a legal battle with the owner since he bought it in the mid-90s.

The park where I almost had a space in is called Marin Valley Mobile Country Club.  It's a great location, hidden in a little valley between Hamilton and St. Vincents.  The other one is Los Robles and it it is behind Nave Lanes right off the Bel Marin Keys exit and, frankly, too close to the freeway for my liking.

One of the drawbacks of a Mobile Home park is that the spaces are small, and it seems that your space is right on top of your neighbor's space.  Views usually consist of a street view, and looking into your neighbor's outdoor living space, of which, for all residents is pretty limited.  Outdoor living space in important to me; I may not always use it, but it's great to have. Parks have very thorough and extensive Rules and Regulations, but, in some parks, the on-site management doesn't seem to care about those rules as long as nobody is making waves.  And some times rules about unsightly upkeep, and other factors are ignored, because they don't want to upset the residents.

So, yeah, I have some nit-picky things I want, but hey, I'm going to be living wherever I choose for the next 20 years so I'd better like it, right?

One of the issues I see in Marin (and Sonoma, as well) is that the folks who own places in the park, regardless of the age of the home being sold (which is the only thing they legally can sell), is that they treat the pad (which is owned by the park, and rented to the resident) as if it was, in fact, theirs to sell.  So for a pad in a Marin County park, the seller is asking a whole heck of a lot more than the home on the pad is worth; you are paying for the privilege (or so I think the realtors tell the sellers) buying a tear down in good spot.  Most of the homes for sale are 30-40 years old and while they may have been updated, over time, they're still not nearly as energy efficient as newer modular homes are.

I used both Trulia and Zillow to monitor what was on sale, checking every day to see what was new on the market  After the experience with a less-than-honorable realtor, I contacted a friend in the business, who has been great!  As the amount of commission my friend would be earning is small, I'm trying to do as much of the grunt work, and running around as I can, so as not to burden her with too much stuff.  Also, I've been doing a lot of reading and asking questions.

I started looking in earnest (and made my first offer) the end of May.  That's the one that went south.

I made offers on several other places both in Marin and Sonoma, for what I think are fair, for a tear-down, but sellers want what they want.  Out of the three places I put offers in on, as of this date, they are all still on the market, at overly inflated prices, and have been that way for over 4 months.   I've come to the conclusion that senior mobile home park residents, for the most part, when they put their place on the market (if they don't have to move out), have a number in mind that may, or may not, reflect the actual value of the home, and if they don't get it, they don't care. 

Yes, I know it's a buyer's market, but my funds are limited, and if I'm going to be tearing down a mobile home that is in poor condition, I don't want to overspend.

I did look at several of the parks in and around the lovely town of Sonoma; the heart of the wine country.  One park, Seven Flags of Sonoma, not only is  well-run, well-maintained, and has a very helpful and friendly staff, but also had the most reasonable space rents.  It's about 2 miles SW of the town and just about half an hour's drive from San Rafael.  After we got back from Yosemite I saw this 40 year old mobile home on a great site at that park, newly listed.  Immediately called my agent, we wrote up an offer for full price, and submitted it.   Alas, we were two hours late, and another, lesser offer had been accepted.  I put a backup offer hoping that the first one would fall through, but couldn't imagine it would  But, surprise surprise, there were a number of issues with the first one and I  found out yesterday that my offer was accepted.  And will probably be signing papers, and paying for it, tomorrow.  Now this was fairly priced, and there were others, after me, that were interested as well.

There are these two sixty-foot pine trees in front of the house, and while I know the park loves trees, I'm not sure what I want to build there will fit, with the trees;   I want them gone.

And when I finally get finished, this will be the view from my living room, dining room and den.

And so the journey begins.....